The whole “how to write a script” obsession has spawned a burgeoning cottage industry among so-called screenwriting ‘gurus’.
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The premise behind how to thinking is that there is some sort definable system. And so these gurus offer patterns, systems, and worst of all… formulas. Although some writers may succeed following that path, for most it’s a slippery slope toward formulaic writing. As screenwriter David Seltzer (The Omen, Punchline) said:
“If you go in with formula, you come out with formula.”
Rather than focusing on “How,” I recommend asking other questions when crafting a story:
Who, What, Why.
Who: Who are your characters? Who are the primary individuals in your story? Who are the secondary and tertiary players who support the narrative.
What: What happens? What is going on between the key characters as they enter the story? What major events occur that twist the narrative in surprising directions?
Why: Why is this character in this story? Why do they take the course of action they do? Why does this story have to happen to this character at this time?
See what I did there? As opposed to thinking how to write a killer script — which positions you, the writer, outside the story, caught up in potential glory and searching for a miracle approach to get you there — these three questions put you smack dab in the middle of where you should be: Inside the story universe, rubbing shoulders with your characters. After all, it’s their story. And they want you to tell it!
Want to know how to write a great script?
Use these questions as tools to go into the story and…
Well, you know the rest.